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  • John Daub: So here we are in Asakusa.

  • This is the cultural heart of the city of Tokyo.

  • Loads of things to see and do here.

  • The history, for me, is fascinating.

  • Things going back centuries.

  • And there's also a lot of street food.

  • More than one person could eat.

  • Eric Berg: Hey, and are you ONLY in Japan, John Daub?

  • John: Eric Berg! Come on over here! Eric: Oh my goodness!

  • Eric: Wow! Did you say something about street food?

  • John: I did. I was going to make a street food episode. Eric: Wow!

  • John: But since you're here...

  • Eric: I would love to join you.

  • Was this an invitation?

  • John: It is now. Eric: Wow! Alright!

  • John: Eric Berg, so let's go eat! Eric: Yeah!

  • (♬ Intro music ♬)

  • Irrashaimase! (Welcome!)

  • Peter von Gomm: ONLY in Japan!

  • John: (voice over) From the Kaminarimon lantern to Sensoji Temple.

  • You have to walk the 250 meters through Nakamise Dori's 89 shops.

  • One of Japan's oldest shopping streets loaded with souvenirs and street food.

  • Opened in 1688, reformed during the Meiji Era,

  • what you see here today is almost entirely rebuilt following World War II.

  • The street food has evolved in this area:

  • a mix of traditional, modern, and international goodies are all around.

  • We'll skip through here to another of Asakusa's traditional streets.

  • John: Oh, hey! So this is Denpoin Street.

  • This is an old street right off of Nakamise Dori,

  • and it's loaded with street food.

  • Eric: It is. Shall we split up so we can get double the food?

  • John: Sounds like a good plan. Let's go!

  • (upbeat music)

  • (voice over) This is Anshinya, a Taiwanese chain, now in Tokyo.

  • Eric hones in on some deep fried sizzling to the left.

  • Eric: Fried chicken?! Hello?

  • John: You can smell the chicken.

  • Eric: (Unintelligible joy)

  • Oh my goodness! I had no idea it was this big!

  • Wow! It's like one item and I'm going to be full it looks like.

  • John: (voice over) This massive deep fried chicken is called Zajipai

  • with six interesting taste accents.

  • I stepped to the right side where a small shop

  • sells a famous street food.

  • Asakusa Menchi almost always has a line of people waiting.

  • Still hot from the fryer.

  • Served in a paper envelope to grab and go.

  • Golden brown, crunchy.

  • This menchi katsu is a lot more than just minced pork cutlet.

  • John: Oh, this is hard to do. It's alright. I just ripped this in half.

  • Woah, that's hot, isn't it?

  • Eric: It is hot.

  • John: Itadakimasu!

  • (voice over) A total taste explosion.

  • Let's compare items to see which is best.

  • Eric: Not like any other fried chicken I've ever had.

  • John: I've never seen chicken like that.

  • Hold on I gotta get a shot of that.

  • Flip it... turn it around on the other side.

  • (voice over) Eric's chicken is flat and long meaning a lot of golden fried crunch on the crust.

  • Eric: It's savory. It's everything.

  • The sauce on it too. Sort of like a shoyu taste.

  • John: (voice over) The chicken has left an impact on Eric. How about that menchi katsu?

  • John: Menchi katsu is like, just a deep fried, battered meatball, right?

  • Eric: Mm hmm.

  • John: (voice over) My menchi katsu is super juicy.

  • Kanagawa koza pork and fresh onions

  • Doesn't need any sauces.

  • John: Super juicy. Do you want to change?

  • Eric: And there was a huge line earlier for these, right?

  • John: Yeah.

  • Eric: There was probably, what, 15 to 20 people in line earlier for this?

  • Oh there's some vegetables in here as well, too.

  • Is that onion? Grilled onion?

  • John: Yeah.

  • Wow!

  • Eric: What do you think?

  • John: I don't know which one tastes better.

  • Eric: Does it taste Korean (translator's note: Taiwanese), or what?

  • It's got a weird sort of flavor to it.

  • John: There's something in the batter

  • but the chicken's great.

  • I love it. It's crunchy.

  • Eric: And you're right about this. It's juicy.

  • John: (voice over) So who wins round one?

  • Eric: This is bangin'! I think you got the better item.

  • John: Really? Eric: Uh huh.

  • The chicken? Hmm.

  • I'd like it better if it was a little more spicy.

  • John: (voice over) At the end of Denpoin Street is a big intersection with one of my favorites:

  • Mochi.

  • This shop, called Kaede, is famous for it on a stick called dango.

  • (speaking Japanese)

  • They have several kinds of dango on sale, so I picked two that looked pretty special.

  • This shop has been selling dango for almost a quarter of a century

  • but why dango?

  • Shop operator: In Asakusa, sweets are quite famous.

  • There are a variety of delicious wagashi

  • like Ningyoyaki cakes and Kaminari-okoshi crackers

  • Few shops were making other sweets besides that

  • here in Asakusa.

  • So in 1999 we opened this dango shop

  • to serve customers something different.

  • John: (voice over) One of my favorites is grilled, or yaki, dango and they some really good ones here.

  • When there's good grilled color to it, flip,

  • and go to the next important stage, the tare, or the sauce.

  • Which makes it a delicious, mitarashi dango.

  • Not too much sauce.

  • Just lightly coat it so it doesn't overpower the grilled mochi.

  • Shop operator: Here in Tokyo, Mitarashi dango are famous sweet dango.

  • But our shop's dango is inspired by Nagoya's sweet sauce.

  • Nagoya's soy sauce is bit stronger, sweet and salty.

  • So hot-grilled dango aroma with this sauce

  • makes a wonderful combination.

  • If you eat our hot-grilled dango

  • you can't enjoy other dango from like a convenience store.

  • Customers tell us this all the time.

  • It's a really popular item here we're proud of.

  • John: Who doesn't love a good dango?

  • So what do you got there?

  • Eric: I've got the nori dango with the seaweed on the outside.

  • John: Yeah this is mitarashi dango.

  • John: I guess this is like a sweet um... Eric: Sweet shoyu?

  • John: Sweet shoyu sauce, yeah.

  • John: Soy based sauce here. Eric: Good choice.

  • Eric: Oh wow it's got some sweetness

  • John: I just love the consistency of mochi, you know.

  • The chewiness of it.

  • But the sweetness of the sauce and the burnt areas of this one

  • really make it.. really make it special.

  • I see you're enjoying that a lot more than I am enjoying mine.

  • What's so nice about yours?

  • Eric: This one's very wholesome.

  • The, uh, the nori's got a bit of a crunch to it and it's dry

  • John: You say you need it you need a cold drink with that, huh?

  • I think that's our next stop: cold drink.

  • Eric: Or maybe it was just we spent too much time getting the close-up shots and it cooled down.

  • John: We spent about five minutes trying to get the right blur.

  • It didn't work.

  • It's a good effort.

  • I find with food shots, the iPhone works really well.

  • Oh you should, okay, so that's a competition.

  • You beat me, is that it?

  • Eric: You talk too much.

  • (Eric laughs)

  • Yum.

  • John: And during New Year's you know that mochi is quite dangerous.

  • John: I think every year a dozen people die from choking.

  • Eric: That's right

  • You need to chew it.

  • Take the time to chew it.

  • That was pleasant

  • John: Gochisosama deshita (Thank you for the meal)

  • Very nice

  • (voice over) Next door is Oimoyasan selling satsumaimo sweet potatoes since 1876.

  • The sweet potato tarts are incredible; soft, a natural subtle sweetness.

  • But we went a different route.

  • John: So what do you got there?

  • Eric: I've got some sweet potato ice cream.

  • John: That's melting

  • Eric: It's melting because we had to get the close-up shots right.

  • A thumbnail I think we were going after.

  • John: I think we did a pretty good job with it. Eric: I hope so.

  • John: What's this called?

  • This, I know, this is satsuma imo too. It's in...

  • Eric: It's in a... she said that's called mizuame is the sauce.

  • I thought it was honey but she called it mizuame.

  • John: Mizuame, interesting.

  • (voice over) My sweet potatoes were good but I was quite jealous about Eric's sweet potato ice cream.

  • Eric: Oh this is fabulous

  • [laser beams]

  • Eric: It does have a sweet potato flavor.

  • John: There's a lot of biting here.

  • This requires a lot of chewing.

  • Eric: Doesn't it?

  • Eric: Do you need something to drink? John: Yeah, we'll go get something...

  • Eric: would you like some ice cream?

  • John: (voice over) Of course I did. [more laser beams]

  • Eric: Use a spork. That might work.

  • John: I wanted to get a close-up of your ice cream.

  • Eric: The ice cream is a fabulous.

  • John: Wow

  • Eric: It's really, really creamy.

  • And it's just it's really a thick cream.

  • John: Really enjoying that huh?

  • Eric: This is the best ice cream I've had in a long time

  • I typically get my ice cream out of a vending machine or at a convenience store so...

  • John: Oh wow Eric: This is definitely a level up John

  • Eric: Yeah. Best day of my life. John: Oh really?

  • Eric: I haven't said that in a while

  • John: (voice over) Mizuame is a Japanese sweetener used in wagashi to give it a sheen.

  • Made by converting starch to sugar similar to corn syrup and taste.

  • Certainly better with tea or coffee.

  • Maybe a little too sweet for my palate but they sure do look good.

  • John: Yeah but it doesn't have that honey taste to it.

  • John: It's just like pure sugar. Eric: Is there shoyu? Oh It's a pure sugar.

  • John: It tastes like pure sugar but i guess there's some of that brown sugar that they have.

  • Eric: Let me try one. John: Yeah go ahead.

  • Eric: Oh brown sugar? John: Maybe.

  • Eric: That would make sense John: Maybe.

  • What do you think?

  • Eric: Delish John: (voice over) Time to steal some ice cream

  • Eric: Oh look, it's got a candy coating on the outside of it doesn't it?

  • John: Oh wow this is good. (voice over) Ooh creamy light sweetness. Perfect.

  • Yeah Eric wins this one.

  • We wandered through the shotengai,

  • a covered shopping street, towards Asakusa's metro station

  • where a load of street food is also on sale.

  • This is Sekine, famous for nikuman, or steamed pork buns.

  • We got two right from the steamer.

  • John: So wow um I'm pretty excited about this one.

  • I love nikuman.

  • Eric: You love nikaman, do you? John: Yeah.

  • Rip it open and then you'll be able to let the steam out here.

  • Eric: Okay that's a good idea. Oh that's a good idea.

  • John: Oh it is a meatball Eric: It's a meatball huh?

  • John: (voice over) Looks like it's sticking its tongue out at us.

  • Eric: Meatball and gravy dumpling

  • John: (voice over) Delicious steamed dumpling bread soaking in some of that meat juices.

  • I had a lot to say about it

  • (somewhat unintelligible chipmunk speak)

  • Eric: This is fabulous.

  • John: You still hungry? Eric: I could still eat.

  • John: You can still eat? Alright, let's go!

  • (voice over) Between Sensoji Temple and Asakusa's Hanayashiki amusement park is one of my favorite melon pan shops.

  • Located in the Nishisando shopping street, they sell fresh baked melon pan right from the oven.

  • The owner has a special fermentation method closer to making sake

  • than bread to get it super fluffy and crispy.

  • They sell about 3000 of them a day.

  • Eric: Special recipe you say?

  • John: Wow Eric: I'm just going to bust it in half here

  • John: Wow Eric: There you go John: Thank you mate

  • Eric: This pan is uh dry John: Yeah this sort of scrunched pretty, pretty good.

  • John: Yum

  • Eric: Oh yeah.

  • John: It's good, right? Eric: It's very good.

  • It kind of reminds me of Hawaiian sweet bread. It's very nice.

  • John: When they come out of the oven and they're hot, they're so much better.

  • John: You have this steam that rises from this so soft inside Eric: Really?

  • John: And the outside of it, crunchy and sugar goodness.

  • It is one of my favorite, uh, bakery items here in Japan when it's done right.

  • Eric: I think it's perfect just the way it is now. It doesn't need to be hot.

  • John: Yeah top has a cookie crunch to it

  • Inside like like, uh, freshly baked bread. Buttery.

  • (voice over) Eric once said I talk too much.

  • (more somewhat unintelligible chipmunk speak)

  • John: Are you finished? Eric: I am finished.

  • John: You still hungry? Eric: I could eat another three of them.

  • Eric: Oh my gosh. That's the best melon pan i've ever had John: Really?

  • Eric: I gotta remember this place.

  • John: Let